A Report by Mauricio Kagel (Germany 1970)
The composer Mauricio Kagel created this 90-minute black-and-white film for Westdeutsches Fernsehen (channel three) on the occasion of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 200th birthday. In the first part, Beethoven, portrayed by a cameraman wearing historical-style clothing, visits Bonn of the 1960’s. He eventually comes to the house where Beethoven was born, by now a museum and memorial.
For this part, Kagel had an imaginary Beethoven house built; its rooms were designed by prominent artists of the time, such as Dieter Roth, Stefan Wewerka and Robert Filliou. Kagel himself designed the music room; Joseph Beuys’s Düsseldorf atelier served as Beethoven’s kitchen. The second part of the film consists of short sequences in which Kagel parodies arts films, science shows and musical performances as shown on television. The music in the film – not to be confused with Kagel’s own Ludwig van composition – comes exclusively from Beethoven works. The sources were radio recordings that were electronically processed and spliced to form a collage.
Kagel “lays bare the detritus of history that has piled up on Beethoven’s work and attempts to find – under it – the music’s innermost content. Dismantlement is the means to do so […] the entire film consists of seemingly surreal sequences […] Not a stone of the pedestal on which the composer has been placed remains intact. Kagel chips away at the cult of genius and the uncritical tradition in which Beethoven’s work has been received.” (KlangZeit Münster, 2004)